Former veteran Vatican diplomat and one of Australia’s highest-ever ranking Catholic officials Cardinal Edward Cassidy has died at the age of 96.
The Australian served for 33 years in the Holy See’s diplomatic service before returning to Rome to run the administration of the Vatican State.
The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference said the cardinal died in Newcastle on Saturday morning.
Sydney Archbishop Andrew Fisher says Cardinal Cassidy had a huge impact on the Vatican’s international diplomacy.
“Few other Australians have had such a profound impact on the Catholic Church on the international stage and I’m sure he will continue to inspire Church leaders for many years to come,” he said in a statement.
Cardinal Cassidy was born in Sydney in 1924 before being ordained 1949 and serving in the Wagga Wagga archdiocese until he left to study in Rome three years late.
He entered the Vatican’s diplomatic service in 1955 where he served in the Holy See’s missions to India, Ireland, Portugal, the US, El Salvador, Argentina, Taiwan, Bangladesh, Southern African, Lesotho, China and the Netherlands.
Cardinal Cassidy returned to Rome in 1988 where he became Cardinal Secretary of State, similar to the role of prime minister, to run the Vatican’s administration.
One year later, Cardinal Cassidy was then appointed president emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, dedicated to opening dialogue and collaboration with the other Christian churches, making him one of Australia’s highest-ranking Vatican officials ever.
In 1990 he was made a companion of the Order of Australia in recognition of his service to religion and to international affairs.
Pope John Paul II promoted him to Cardinal Deacon in 1991 before he retired after 52 years working for the Vatican and returned to Australia in 2001.
Australian Catholic Bishops Conference president Archbishop Mark Coleridge said while he was a top diplomat and advocate for Christian cooperation, Cardinal Cassidy will be remembered for his friendly and down-to-earth style.
“Cardinal Cassidy showed not only diplomatic skill and political astuteness, but also human authenticity and common sense,” he said in a statement..
“There was a simplicity in it all – the simplicity of a man called to high office in the Church but with his eyes firmly on Jesus Christ.”